ZeaChem Inc. and Chrysler Group LLC announced they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for strategic alliance to accelerate the development and market adoption of advanced cellulosic ethanol by bringing together a leading global auto manufacturer and an innovative bio-based fuels and chemicals production company.
According to ZeaChem, the main aim of the collaboration is to strengthen cellulosic ethanol's credibility among regulators and consumers, build awareness of the environmental advantages of cellulosic ethanol produced from non-food feedstocks, and provide leadership in bringing cellulosic ethanol to the consumer market, and build awareness of the potential environmental advantages of high yield, low carbon cellulosic ethanol.
“Our process delivers a 40% higher yield in ethanol from non-food cellulosic feedstock. Through strategic alliances we can fast-track the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol,” said Jim Imbler, the president and CEO of ZeaChem.
ZeaChem uses a combined biochemical and thermochemical process for the production of ethanol. ZeaChem’s ability to produce biochemicals as well as fuel played a role in attracting Chrysler to form a partnership with the company, according to Imbler.
The auto industry is obviously a huge consumer of fuel, but biochemicals produced using ZeaChem’s process can serve to replace petrochemicals, such as polypropylene, currently being used in the auto-manufacturing process.
Jim Imbler said Chrysler views ZeaChem as a logical partner for fuel production because its process produces high yields of second-generation ethanol from renewable feedstocks, primarily hybrid poplar trees. “ZeaChem is at the forefront of advanced cellulosic ethanol production,” he said. “Our process delivers a 40 percent higher yield in ethanol from non-food cellulosic feedstocks. Through strategic alliances we can fast-track the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol. We look forward to collaborating with Chrysler Group to achieve our mutual goals and bring sustainable advanced cellulosic ethanol to consumers’ vehicles.”
The partnership deal between Chrysler and ZeaChem is non-exclusive, but Imbler said ZeaChem is not planning to partner with any other auto manufacturer at this time and is not aware of Chrysler partnering with other cellulosic ethanol producers.
Chrysler is not the first auto manufacturer to enter into development agreements with ethanol producers. In 2008, General Motors Corp. provided an undisclosed investment to both Coskata Inc. and Mascoma Corp. and made agreements to increase the number of flex-fuel vehicles it manufactures as well as to support the necessary infrastructure build-out for higher blends of ethanol.
While it started out strong, GM’s aggressive stance toward biofuels has yet to really prove itself, as evidenced by the continued need for E85 and blender pump infrastructure throughout the country and the yet to be commercialized cellulosic technologies. While some of the blame for this can be placed on the treacherous economic climate of the past three years, Jim Imbler said he believes the earlier auto manufacturer-ethanol producer partnerships may have come out a little prematurely. “The timing of this announcement matches more of the market reality,” he said. “I think the timing is right now for people to really start getting behind the new generations of technologies.”